Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Little Debbie, Little Debbie...I'm a comin' on home...

I sat at an ancient wooden school desk, lacquer brown and dirty, stale, names scratched into the surface, "Jake loves Raychael", "Keri and John", crosses and faces and blue block letters. The stripes and deep dark plaids etched into the surface of the smooth rectangle beneath my arm. I was leaning on my elbow over Andy's shoulder. As we waited for the next Scholar Bowl match to begin, he flipped through the pages of my CD binder, smiling, excited, pointing at the bands he liked. I looked down at my extended foot, hovering above the ground, faux Doc Martens and shredded stockings. So what if they were taupe and not fishnet. I was stuck in the middle of the Midwest, in a small town with a "Heart of Gold", 5 miles out from Interstate 70, 70 miles from the closest city, no MTV, a fuzzy signal from the closest alternative radio station. Spin Magazine and Seventeen where all I had to drive my style. Floral skirt and combat boots, long blonde hair, slight makeup, quiet eyes. I walked the halls day after day, bored and drowning, confused and wanting so much more than this life. I stared out the window of the Study Hall Room as Andy pulled a Prayer Chain album out with a questioning expression.

"Underground Christian Alternative band. My friend Rich made me a tape of them at church camp one Christmas."

"You went to church camp over Christmas?"

My mind suddenly flipped to Richard Gary and walking through the dark night at Covenant College, winter of 1994. "What are you majoring in?" He had asked. He had mistaken me for a counselor, and I let him believe it. I had come on the trip with a youth group from Birmingham, Alabama, a youth group with whom I'd had little association or could really even relate to, me with my wide legged pants and NIN t-shirt, my vintage suit vest and plaid flannel converse.

I dragged my feet in the gravel on the parking lot. "Psychology?"

It seems so funny now that I lied at a church camp, that I spent the whole trip like some bad eighties teen movie ruse, trying to make myself out to be older and cooler. I guess at that age we all want to be something we're not or at least something more. I came from Brownstown, where I was pretty much the only one like me. I hungered for music. I longed to see art, movies, culture, anything but those asphalt roads and endless plains, anything but the closed minds and pointing fingers I'd come to know so well.

Richard finally figured me out, I think. We remained pen pals for a while and he sent me the best packages. I grew to love the music he loved, Starflyer 59, the Prayer Chain. He gave me the jump start into the christian indie that would eventually lead me to Greenville. Funny how paths are changed because of such small things like a mix tape and a late night conversation.

I came back to the moment, Andy was laughing and gesturing at a couple of compilations I forgot I had owned. Andy was a treasure. I was a senior in High School. He was in 8th grade, had traveled over with the Beecher City scholar bowl team to help them out. We talked of music alot that day and exchanged addresses. We'd go on writing each other until the summer came when I'd be free to drive the back roads to Beecher and we'd sit for hours in his basement bedroom, listening to music and creating things. That summer we made a heart shaped box and covered it with articles of bands we liked, pictures, lyrics. We filled it with mix tapes and books, an ugly hat, some drawings, every moment that we could possibly place into that box... He was an unusual boy. He painted 7 foot tall Grateful Dead bears cartwheeling around the wall of his room. He made me listen to Southern Culture on the Skids. I can still see his slight form in the tall white room, arms turned and jumping back and forth, dancing to the music. God, he made me laugh

"Yo ye Pharaohs, let us walk
Through this barren desert, in search of truth
And some pointy boots, and maybe a few snack crackers....."

When I moved back from college and started working for Disk Jockey Records, we spent almost every night sitting in a booth in the Effingham Denny's, drinking coffee and whiling the hours away deep in conversation. I would write, compiling my book of bad poetry, he would draw. We would take day trips to St. Louis, get coffee at the Grind, pillage Vintage Vinyl, run through Forest Park, go to shows. Over the next three years, I watched him grow up, fall in love, and we grew apart. Right before I moved away he came to me with a paper bag. It contained the contents of our heart shaped box. I took it without question and stored it in my own little box of memories.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Vomit Lasers Family Band

The Black Lips/ Dark Meat/ Fatal Flying Guillotines
February 22, 2007 @ the Bottletree

"I feel as if I were being vomited inside an amplifier inside of a volcano"
- Jacob Tubbs

The first band, Fatal Flying Guillotines, were so extremely loud that we had to text message each other to converse about how loud they were. Greg, the bartender happily handed us two sets of earplugs and Jacob flashed his T-shirt that was under his sweater, which featured a Spinal Tap Amplifier dial that went to 11.

For some reason I thought that there were only two bands playing. As we heard instruments murmuring behind the movie screen on the stage, we got up from our table and moved toward the front, ready to see the infamous Black Lips. But when Merrillee rolled the screen up, Jacob and I both were a little overwhelmed to discover, this was not the Black Lips, this was THE LARGEST BAND EVER, Dark Meat, a music collective from Athens. There were almost 20 people on that little stage, guitarist, two drummers, bassist, 3 girl singers, a horn section (which featured an unamused fife player), a girl with a pair of marracas, and a guy with drum sticks and other gadgets who beat on pretty much everything. Oh, an did I mention that they had an EXTRA saxophone player?

It was the loudest, craziest thing I'd heard in a long long while, the totally packed stage was positively writhing with activity, people in costumes, dancing, jumping, whirling. I looked over at Jacob and he still had Chachi on his finger while he bobbed back and forth, the people all around us were dancing too, hands in the air. One guy in front of us, a long haired metal dude, knelt down to the stage as if he was at the invitation at a baptist church, probably praying to the gods of distortion.

As I looked at everyone on stage, I realized that two of the girl singers were Page and Claire Campbell, the sisters from one of my FAVORITE bands/collectives/whatever Hope For Agoldensummer. I cannot tell you what a joy I've always found watching them sing and play. I've booked them at the Moonlight. Absolutely incredible. Now, to watch them wail over a bursting madness of instruments...it was a bit euphoric.

After the set, I realized how late it was, and like Cinderella ran out the
door, down the steps and into my awaiting coach. I hated to miss the Black Lips, but sometimes I feel the need to do this really lame thing called "Sleeping" before I work a full day at the Emergency Room.

I got a little bit of sleep. I dreamt of Jacob dancing in front of the
stage, in front of the Black Lips, Beer in one hand, Chachi on the other, arms in the air. He was sort of riverdancing, and in his Freddie Mercury Halloween Costume. But that's cool.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

singing me to sleep

I have 13 minutes to write. 13 minutes until I yawn and stretch my toes and fold myself into a great pair of quilts my great grandmother stitched together to keep her family warm. They do keep me warm. Warm and safe. I will soon drift away on a sea of sleep and the sound of Claire Campbell's hollow, soft alto singing me a secret:

Do you laugh,
Do you cry in your secret room?
Do your wings make a sound?
Do your feet touch the ground?
I love like a sailor.
I dance like a princess.
Tomorrow I will stand in the middle of the road.
Until I get run down.
Until the sun sinks beneath the ground.
I sing like a werewolf.
I shoot like an outlaw.
I love like a sailor.

--Love Like a Sailor

words adapted from a poem by Ben Roth
performed beautifully by
Hope For Agoldensummer
on the album
I bought a heart made of art in the deep deep south


Monday, February 19, 2007

not a problem

It's super okay, rolling over the days like this. The distortion from the Black Lips kills what quiet thoughts I had left. My head wags back and forth and as the pressure runs from side to side and settles in the back of my skull, I start to remember. I run to their car, jump inside, the tail lights bobbing as we pull away from the curb. We turn onto College Ave, up the street and on into the night.

On nights like this we'd drive through the country side, the flat dark backroads beyond St. Elmo, into the oil fields and pastures and woodlands. Shawn and Josh and little tiny me, laughing stifled teary laughs in the wind that flew through the broken sun roof of the El Dorado. The curves of the night, the gravel and broken pavement, the fresh green field-filled air, the genius of teenage invention. We spent the hours on the edge, the only edge I knew, this dangerous quick turn, my hands extended out the window, my eyes closed taking in every jolt, every rev-v-v-v of the tired engine, the night air whipping the long locks of my hair into my eyes and face. Shawn, from the passenger seat, nodded his head in time, his curly hair just hitting the shoulders of his flannel shirt. He turned up the stereo and Josh peered back at me in the rearview mirror and smiled. I sat in the middle of the back seat, hands steadying as we took another turn. I stared back at him through one eye and then the other, turning my head slightly with each small look. I leaned forward between the front seats, elbows pushing against the sides, my head resting on Josh's right shoulder. Shawn pulled a paper bag from beneath the seat, motioned for me to sit back, pulled out his lighter and lit a bottle rocket, flinging it out of the sun roof and into space, a POP resounding in the dark distance behind us. Josh leaned forward, the drumming hum of the car, the crushing sound of rock'n'roll through broken speakers pulling us out into the night and on into the future.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

black print on a white t-shirt

I start up the car in the dark of the night, pulling out from the curb and into the thin vehicle-lined road. The street lights seem dim on this cold night. I fumble with the front hem of my velvet coat, buttoning 25 buttons as I turn onto University. I'm no warmer. I feel the small of my back press into the car seat as I turn onto the interstate. Lucinda Williams tells me something. Her wavering voice tells me that it's true. And I believe her.

John Ciba has a simple way of telling me his thoughts, the simplest way for a girl like me, who dreams in measures and spinning harmonies. His mix cds are the pure gold, the most precious of my collection and tonight I will share one with you from 2002.

Lucinda Williams - Something About What Happens When We Talk
Jean Plum - Look at the Boy
Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham - I'm Your Puppet
Venice Shoreline Chris - Rocksteady
Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson - Let's Fall in Love
The Specials - You're Wondering Now
Flying Burrito Bros. - Cody
Magic Sam - All I Need
Reigning Soung - You're Not as Pretty
The Band & The Staple Singers - The Weight
Dusty Springfield - Willie & Laura Mae Jones
Mike Ireland & Holler - I'd Like Too
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks - Sweetheart
Marion Williams - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
Nina Simone - Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl
Style Council - You're the Best Thing
Big Star - September Gurls
Beulah - Lay Low for the Letdown
My Bloody Valentine - Drive it all Over Me
Uncle Tupelo - Wait Up
The Wailing Wailers - Mellow Mood
Nikki Giovanni - Butterfly
Vera Hall - The Wild Ox Moan

The track listing is ironed on to two white cotton t-shirts, each song with it's own commentary or story of why John loves it or just what he was thinking or how it pertained to our lives at the time. It was one of the most honest and beautiful things ever given to me and is a testament to the true and thoughtful nature of one of the best friends I've ever had.

One of my favorite notations by Mister John Ciba:

"The Band and the Staple Singers. The Weight.

From the Last Waltz documentary, the Staples team up with the Band to create a version superior to either of their own seperately. They never actually made it to the concert but this was recorded afterwards and added to the documentary. I went and saw this a few months ago at the theater. After this performance, all thirty people stood and gave a round of applause for the next few minutes. It was one of the most beautiful things. I was so moved I went and bought the box set at Tower after the movie."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Revelation Big Sur

"and through the rhythm of the timeless season...."
-Mark Kozelek

My favorite flower is in bloom, the daffodil. Their yellow heads are leaning over the monkeygrass in my front lawn, a tired but bright morning greeting as I head out to my car.

When I was a child, my father would take me to a place, just outside Bluff City, called Sonneman's Cabin. It was a getaway for an attorney from my father's practice, two generations before his time. In my tiny blond head, it was like a dream. The two room structure was set in a field of green and yellow, daffodils as far as the eye could see. I would run off into the woods and come back, small fragile arms overflowing with butter colored blossoms and bluebells. We drove back there every year, to take pictures, just to catch a glimpse of this lovely vision of spring.

When I was old enough to drive, through high school, college, and ever after, I would find myself traveling the winding back road to the cabin, after school, on the weekends, late at night. The clear moonlit sky would cast an eerie glow on those golden heads, wavering in the night air. I'd sit in my car and listen to Mark Kozelek, America, Glen Phillips, weaving together ghost stories through each turn of the guitar, brought from the dark corners of the barn across the way, midnight tales of love and death and eternal longing. I never asked my father of Sonneman. I never was told a truth about this small place. I was afraid of it, that my father's plain sense would knock my sensibilities off of the face of the landscape. "He just had a green thumb," would be his answer. And all of those stories I had written, all of those songs in my head of devoted tribute to a lost love and glorifying the paths that she once walked would wither into such a short sentence.

It's been five years since last I drove down that road. 500 miles away, I can still see it, clear and quiet. Maybe I'll ask a friend from home to search it out, as soon as the Midwest winter thaws. Darren, I know how you love driving those back roads. Are you up for the task?

It's a rainy day here in Birmingham. A dark day. The cars are flying by on the overpass by my window, their headlights a waterfall of light.

Mister Murray Lightburn: I still don't love you. I gave you another chance on the drive in to work this morning. My heart never turned your direction. It stayed curving through traffic, from lane to lane, and then on into the morning.

Maybe someday.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Friday - yadirF

It's Friday night. I could be out, celebrating the fact that I've finished the week. I could be sitting in joyful banter at the end of a bar. Instead this evening, I sat wrapped in quilt at the cusp of the fireplace, my father sitting back in his chair across the room, our eyes staid on the screen of the tv. Kermit and Miss Piggy walked down the aisle, singing to each other. The colors of Jim Henson's creations lept from the screen. I turned to my father and smiled. In the darkness of the living room, I saw his glowing grin, his laughter that rolled through his entire torso. Our eyes met and we looked to the other chair. My mother turned, afghan spread across her lap, hand to chin, sleep drowning out every bit of jumping Muppet exclamation to be heard.

We watched the Illusionist. I found myself moving closer to the television as the story progressed, until I ended up sitting directly in front of it. I didn't catch the smell of cookies in the air, nor did I notice at all when my father placed a bowl of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream in my hand. I ate it, completely entranced, and in a moment, I looked down at my bowl. Magically, it was gone.


"You didn't like the last album, so you're going to just write them off entirely?"
Travis held up the latest Dears album, eyebrow cocked. I could feel my face screwing up into the expression I give my mother when we're out shopping and she holds up a shirt.
I nodded to the affirmative. He sighed. We were standing across the cd rack from one another at Schoolkids last Saturday afternoon, each with an armful of cds.

The Dears? I couldn't help it. I was let down. Stratis, Kristin the Canadian's best friend, had played them for me almost two years before, a few of their previous albums...I found that the tracks were dripping with warm tones and catchy beats and I was hooked. So on a trip soon after to the House of Karls in Nashville, I flung aside my usual affliction of Buyers Amnesia (which I have said before, even though I complain about it, I totally enjoy) as I entered Grimey's Music, and laid down pretty much the last of my trip cash for No Cities Left. When I pulled out onto I-65 to make the journey home, I threw in the CD and after a few tracks, began to slowly die inside.

I did enjoy one track, which I included on my 2005 Life Soundtrack CD, but only because I enjoyed singing harmonies on the song. Maybe my expectations were too high.* Maybe I have terrible taste in music. Maybe I have incredible hearing loss. * Maybe I have lost all sense of reason.


The Dexateens Show
Hardwire Healing CD Release
The 40 Watt, Athens, Georgia

Holy Hell. The Rock and Roll.

Check out Nathan's pics from the show